New book by Aleksandar Đuričić “Čuvarkuće”(“Hearthkeepers”) shines a light on the windows of famuos writers, giving us a new angle of observing and experiencing the great texts, but also the women who stood behind them.
Do destinies of women who have lived with famous writers have anything in common? Or is each of these relationships incomparable, a story unto itself?
All these women, who have accompanied me on my two-year journey through the lives of Yugoslav literary artists, share tenacity and resilience that enable them to keep living with the loves of their lives after their deaths. Their defiance is touching, in preserving the work of their husbands in the literary jungle we have today. Each of them, of course, is a story unto herself, but some of them are joined through tears: almost an entire river was cried as Ana Krdu spoke about how her Puiu (which is what she called her Petru) suffered when the Literary Municipality of Vršac was thrown out of Sterija’s house; a stream of tears came from Ksenija Marković as she recalled how her – and our – Libero Markoni fought with windmills and bohemian lifestyle, before he was found dead, under unexplained circumstances, in the stairwell of the building his studio was in. There was a lot of laughter, too. Ljiljana Kapor remembered, with humour, the difficult struggle of her arduous journey from being Moma’s lover to being his wife, while Jasmina Pavić remembered unforgettable sexual adventures with the man whose writing made him ill for three years following the “Dictionary of the Khazars”. There is a lot of eroticism in there, but “Hearthkeepers” is a book about love and solitude. After Borislav’s death, Ljiljana Pekić was unable to walk alone; she was rescued by the tapes he recorded his notes on, which she had never heard before, so she pretended that he was still around, that he was on the phone with her, as she downloaded his thoughts onto a computer. Even now, four years after Mirko Kovač passed, Slobodana Matić will comment on the films she watches in the evenings as if he was there, which was their favourite thing to do – only to be shocked, time and time again, that he is not at her side. These brave women are also connected by a specific type of anger, the feeling that these writers are side-lined, in a way, thrown out.
Does your book speak in favour of the thesis of women ruling from the shadows, or of women who simply live and remain in the shadows?
Draško Ređep, who reviewed the book, entitled his Afterward: “They saw them naked”. And I saw them “naked”. A few evenings back, as she read the book, Jasmina Mihajlović wrote to me: “You are now the boss of a small, but courageous troupe – Writers’ Widows – be careful what you do, the next move is on you.” I had no thesis or antithesis, I let them talk, rummage through their lives and remember, the way they wanted to. Sometimes, living in the shade brings you peace. Now they are out in the sun.
Just how much biographic material, testimonials of the times passed and love stories does this book encompass?
This book is a love novel, although it is not a novel. Honestly, I enjoyed picking through the secret chambers of the great artists of the written word; I rejoiced in every discovery about the lives of these unusual men, whose fame, grumpiness, bohemian lifestyle and pennilessness were all dragged along on their wives’ backs. And, I am happy that I have put the lives brimming with passion and well-forged words on the pedestal of our everyday lives.
To what extent are the heroines, those who talk in the book as they wade through these memories – charismatic and atypical women? How much have they helped you find what you were looking for?
They helped and they hindered, as they were somewhat afraid, which was quite understandable. The most prominent impression after these interviews, living the lives of the writers, comes from the fighting spirit that these women have; they are not giving up on the loves of their lives even now, when they have been left alone. This is why this book is primarily about love and about solitude.